Breathe and allow yourself to take “one step back to two steps forward.”
Slowing down for me is hard to do as it requires patience and discipline. However, I know deep down it is what I need most in order for me to progress in what I am doing. Although what works for me may not be right for you, I do believe we can all benefit from taking a step back to appreciate and observe ourselves in what we are doing to enable us to make deeper connections within and also around us.
For me, taking deeper and fuller breaths allows me to take a step back. When I allow myself to tap into deeper, longer, and rhythmic breaths I am able to explore different ideas, deepen my postures, and feel which in turn allows me to relax. What a process! I find it comical that what I need most to advance in my practice and keep me balanced inside and out is simply to relax more!
I find when I am rushed, stressed, or in the middle of a challenging situation whether that be in my pilates practice or in a relationship, I have a difficult time breathing. As I become more aware of this inner sensation I am able to catch myself quicker and pause before unneeded tension and frustration ever sinks in. I am not saying that this is always the case, but I have made decent improvement that I am proud of and I credit my success to taking a step back and simply breathing a bigger awareness within myself and also the situation at hand.
Practicing mindful breathing is something I try to do daily to help me in my efforts to be present, slow down, and relax! I hope you consider your breath also as a tool to help you stay present and connected in your life and Pilates practice.
One idea that has helped me breathe fuller and deeper is connecting to the qualities of the inhale and the exhale. For instance, when I inhale I connect to the expansion and the fullness I receive. I visualize the inhale nourishing every cell and organ in my body; my heart beating bigger, my diaphragm falling, and my pelvic floor relaxing as my lungs expand. I feel an inner wave taking place within as everything broadens wider from the center line of my spine. On my exhales, I connect to the opposite feeling such as an “inner squeeze.” As my lungs empty, I feel my pelvic floor and diaphragm rising. I feel more integrated as my belly retracts and I pull to my midline. Once I have connected to the qualities of the inhale and the exhale I try to ride the wave of my breath and follow my breath as it rises up and fills me and also ride it down as it empties me.
Once you are riding the wave of your breath, you begin to feel the places inside that are not as lively or awake. For me that place is generally my right lower/middle back. However, this will change from time to time depending where the “kinks” are. When I am able to locate places that are generally “sleeping,” stiff, and tight, I try to consciously focus my breath in that area as a means to wake it back up and soften and loosen all the inner tissue and locked muscles. Furthermore, I remember to think about the “whole” body and how it is connected. One part will affect another part. It’s helpful to consider the relationship between your pelvic bowl and the lungs. I say this because there is a direct correlation between the two and when you are not allowing for width and space in your pelvic bowl you will not be able to breathe to your fullest capacity, and vice versa. Once you understand how to integrate your center in a balanced way you will also benefit from breathing fuller deeper breaths.
Below are some breathing practices you can integrate to stay spacious and connected in your Pilates practice.
-Breathe fully, allow deep inhales and complete exhales.
-Visualize lateral breathing your back lungs and for that matter the back pelvis more open to wake up your back body.
-Inhale to create muscle awareness and inner spaciousness
-Exhale to create structural awareness and to streamline your body taller and longer.
-Inhale into an extension
-Inhale into a side stretch
-Exhale into a flexion
-Exhale into rotations
If you are interested in a free app for your phone, I use the breathing app